When menstrual health is still taboo in Bangladesh, very few people think of helping women by providing sanitary napkins during their periods.
But Tausif Ahmed of Chittagong University is certainly among those rare people. He has taken a unique initiative for his fellow female students on campus.
He thought of installing vending machines on campus from where female students themselves could easily buy low cost sanitary pads.
At present, sanitary pad vending machines, procured from India, are being installed at seven faculties and one residential hall at the university. They will be ready for use from next week.
Vending machines are automated machines that sell various items if one inserts money, bank cards or specialised cards into them.
Tausif told The Business Standard that a sanitary pad will come out of the machine if Tk5 is placed into it. But for the first two weeks, pads will be given free of cost.
"About 10,000 female students of the university will get the service. We will employ a volunteer for each machine. We will also campaign for its proper use," said he.
The Chittagong University has 27,839 students under 54 departments and institutes. There are four dormitories for female students, housing 2,171 women.
Tausif Ahmed said they will gradually set up more vending machines on campus.
When asked how he got the idea, Tausif replied that he came across a Facebook post where he saw that vending machines have been installed in some Indian schools to sell napkins to female students.
"But due to financial constraints, I doubted I could implement a similar facility on my campus," he said.
Later in October 2019, Tausif participated in an ambassador programme organised by LG, a South Korean multinational electronics company, and submitted his idea there.
"My idea was selected among the four finalists in the programme. LG donated Tk4 lakh to help me set up vending machines on my campus," Tausif smiled, as if in relief that he could implement his idea.
Professor Dr Shireen Akter, the vice chancellor of Chittagong University, appreciated Tausif's effort.
"Female students of the university will definitely benefit from this initiative. They are usually too shy to buy sanitary pads from shops where there are mostly male salespeople," she said.
"Now, they can buy pads on their own," Dr Shireen added.
Meanwhile, female students of the university also welcomed the initiative.
Noor E Zannat, a student in the law department, said, "It is undoubtedly a great facility for us. We can easily buy pads from vending machines set up at our faculties. We will also save money because they are quite cheap."
She expects the university to expand this facility to all its departments and women's dormitories.